My email flooded with questions from readers this weekend regarding the shootings in Portland, Oregon and Newtown, Conneticut. As always, I offer answers not to close a conversation, but to broaden one. Here are some of the questions, and my answers:
"My third grader asks why God didn’t prevent the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings. Our pastor told us what to say to our son, and the answers satisfy him, but not me. Why didn’t God spare these people? Why is there evil?"
This may be difficult to hear, but your questions are the shadow side of your theology. Because you imagine a God who could stop the killings, you wonder why he didn’t. Because you imagine a God who is all–good, you wonder why there’s evil. Imagine differently. In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I fashion light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil.” God contains all opposites, and creation actualizes them. Reality is what reality is because God is who God is: the source of all things, evil as well as good.
"Can you help me find Bible passages explaining these killings?"
Don’t search the Bible to explain what happened; search it for wisdom that helps you respond well to what happened. Start with Job 2:9—“Shouldn’t we accept the bad as well as the good from God?” Job realizes the “yin–yang” nature of God and creation, and teaches radical acceptance: facing the truth of what is as the first step toward positively engaging with what is. Without the distraction of “why,” we are free to grieve more fully. The healing is in the grieving, not the explaining.
I’m grading papers this week. One assignment in my Bible class was to rewrite the end of the Book of Job beginning with the premise that God actually tells Job the truth about Job’s suffering: that it was the result of a wager God made with the Devil to see how much punishment and horror Job could endure before losing faith in God. In the Bible, God never fesses up to Job about this bet.
Posting the Ten Commandments in government buildings may soon become legal in Tennessee, and I for one am all for it. After all this is a central Jewish document, and if Tennessee wants to honor my people and our faith, well, bless their little hearts.
What I don’t understand is why Christians would want the Ten Commandments posted. The text never mentions Christ and actually commands things that Christians have long since abandoned.